AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the Middle East for 2015
As 2015 comes to a close, The Associated Press is looking back at the year's events as seen by photojournalists in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It was a year dominated by war and unrest that spanned continents and drew countries together — both in their response to terror attacks and to the exodus of people fleeing for their lives.
The militant Islamic State group expanded its reach across the region, gaining more ground with new offshoots in Libya and Afghanistan, and sending refugees across the sea to Europe in search of a better life. Thousands died at sea trying to make the journey in what's been the largest migration of people since World War II.
IS released videos showing the brutal killing of a Jordanian pilot, the slayings of 21 captive Egyptian Christians in Libya and the killings of several men accused of homosexuality in Syria.
The group also claimed to have downed a Russian passenger plane over Egypt's Sinai, killing all 224 aboard and delivering a blow to the country's tourist industry that has struggled since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In Paris and in California, IS militants and a husband-and-wife couple carried out devastating terror attacks.
France, Egypt and others joined the U.S.-led coalition in carrying out airstrikes targeting IS and the Pentagon is dispatching American commandos to Iraq to combat IS. At the end of September, Russia launched its own air campaign in Syria meant to weaken IS and other militants.
A new wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence also erupted, now in its third month.
Almost daily, ordinary Palestinians — many in their teens and without political affiliations — carry out stabbing attacks in what are essentially suicide missions. The violence is playing out in one of the darkest periods of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with hopes for a peace deal establishing a Palestinian state at an all-time low after Israelis this year re-elected their hard-line government and continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
In Lebanon, a trash crisis ignited the country's largest protests in years and became a festering symbol of the government's paralysis and failure to provide basic services. It was sparked after authorities closed Beirut's main landfill on July 17 and failed to provide an alternative.
Yemen, meanwhile, has been ravaged by fighting between its U.S.-supported and internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and Shiite rebels known as Houthis, allied with a former president.
The war has killed at least 5,700 people since March, when the fighting escalated and the Saudi-led air campaign began, according to the United Nations.
In Saudi Arabia, a September stampede during the hajj killed at least 2,411 pilgrims, an Associated Press count has shown — three times the number of deaths acknowledged by the kingdom after the incident.